Our current Retro Spotlight forum topic focuses on Lunar Lander, Atari’s devilishly difficult arcade game from the Seventies. Inspired by the space race that saw the USA put a man on the moon in 1969, the game tasked players with balancing thrust, gravity and momentum to safely land a spaceship on the hazardous lunar surface. Failure to come in at the correct speed or angle would result in the destruction of the craft.
While Lunar Lander wasn’t a failure by any stretch of the imagination, and was noteworthy as the first Atari arcade game to use vector graphics, its popularity was eclipsed by that of Atari’s other vector space-based game, Asteroids. Despite that, it went on to inspire a whole range of similar games and named its own subgenre.
Many videogames have had plots involving a character having dreams of apocalyptic terrors, but few have been directly inspired by them. Yet that’s exactly what drove Atari’s Dave Theurer to create Missile Command, as the Cold War meant that the threat of nuclear destruction was an ever-present source of paranoia in Eighties America. Thankfully, Russian aggression is a thing of the past today (Are you sure? – Ed.) and rogue states haven’t been able to create their own nuclear weapons (Nick, please – Ed.), so we don’t have to worry about the prospect of a mushroom cloud on the horizon any time soon.
Thankfully the game itself was significantly more fun than radiation sickness, as you used a trackball to try to intercept missiles targeting six Californian cities. And if you enjoyed playing Missile Command in the arcade, or indeed an a home system, you might fancy discussing it in the Retro Gamer forum, where the game is our current Retro Spotlight. Click here to head straight for that topic.